Darrell Waltrip’s run at Fox is almost over.
Waltrip revealed Thursday to the Tennesseean that he’ll retire after Fox’s NASCAR coverage concludes this summer. The Hall of Fame driver has been in the booth for Cup Series races since Fox started covering NASCAR in 2001.
Waltrip was a fantastic addition to Fox’s coverage when it joined with NBC in a then-historic television deal to broadcast NASCAR races. But the 72-year-old Waltrip has become a caricature in recent years and it’s been more and more obvious how little insight he brings to the booth on a regular basis.
“Bristol is my house. I’ve got 12 wins at Bristol, I’ve got a grandstand that has 43,000 seats in my honor at Bristol,” Waltrip told the Tennesseean. Sunday’s Cup Series race is at Bristol Motor Speedway. “It’s in Tennessee. I love that racetrack. It’s been good to me. I could’ve waited until Charlotte or somewhere else down the road, but it’s been hanging over my head. I just wanted to clear the air, let people know what my plans are and then other people can make plans accordingly. Like who’s going to take my place or is somebody going to take my place?”
Fox’s final race of the 2019 NASCAR season is at Sonoma on June 23.
Waltrip’s “clear the air” comment comes days after Associated Press racing writer Jenna Fryer penned a column panning Fox’s below-par NASCAR coverage. As Waltrip and play-by-play announcer Mike Joy have aged, the quality of the network’s NASCAR coverage has slid.
The addition of Jeff Gordon to the booth in 2016 was an awkward fit as Waltrip struggled to stay relevant alongside a four-time champion who had recently stopped driving. The difference between Fox’s coverage and NBC’s, which features Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and former crew chief Steve Letarte, is can be striking in terms of the quantity and quality of information presented to viewers.
“Jeff Gordon coming along beside of me has just made me aware of what I know I know — that I’m old school,” Waltrip said. “I grew up in this sport in one era and Jeff grew up in a totally different era. When he talks to the drivers they talk a different language than I ever talked. When he relates to the drivers he relates to them in a different way than I do. And so it just became obvious to me it’s a young man’s sport. I’m not a young man anymore.”
While Waltrip’s analysis had become more and more hokey and, at times, downright incorrect, his status within NASCAR isn’t diminished. The last few years in the broadcast booth don’t erase the impact that he had as a broadcaster when NASCAR exploded in popularity in the early 2000s just like his last few unproductive years as a driver don’t erase the success that he had in the cockpit of a Cup Series car.
But when assessing both careers and acknowledging his accomplishments, it’s fair to wonder if Waltrip overstayed his welcome.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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